I started to compete in triathlons a few year ago.It was the most rewarding experience of my life.
I have some questions for you.
- Have you noticed the few extra pounds hanging onto your mid section?
- Do you find yourself struggling when you have to get through a flight of stairs?
- Do you lose your breath easily?
- Is there a section in your wardrobe that you haven’t touched for a long time because ‘it feels just a little bit tight’?
- Do you dread your next physical exam and does that scale look uninviting and unwelcoming?
Read on if you want to do something about it.I was of all that. When I was in my teens I had a 36-inch waist and weighed in at 83 kg. I played rugby, tennis and hockey. Fast forward 25 years later my waist had ballooned to 48 inches and I topped the scales at 120 kg and I wasn’t doing anything approaching sports and exercises. I had a scare at the doctors when they admitted me for a suspected heart attack a few years before I hit 40. My blood pressure indicated I was heading for full-blown hypertension. Getting up the stairs required a huge effort and I often had to rest before I could go on.
Then I decided to get a grip on my life and started training for the triathlon.
For those who don’t know, the triathlon is a multi-sports event that combines swimming, cycling and running. There are different levels of triathlons depending on the distance. The sprint distance triathlon is the shortest at 750m swim, 20km bike and 5km run. The Ironman distance is the longest and most intense at 3.8km swim, 180km bike and a marathon 42.2 km run, all of which has to be completed within 17 hours. The sprint triathlon was my first triathlon event during the Port Dickson International Triathlon in July 2011. I completed it in a time of 2 hours 5 mins 5 secs.
I trained for 7 months to prepare for the sprint triathlon. I had to relearn how to swim, cycle and run. In the process, I lost 25 kg (and am planning to lose another 15). My waist went down from 48 inches to 38 inches. I now swim, cycle and run. My doctors have certified me as super fit except for 1 nagging issue, I was still considered obese (hence the aim of losing another 15 kg). I can now bounce up the stairs and hardly feel it.
All because I started to train for the triathlon.
If that’s not enough motivation for you, here are some reasons why you should consider the triathlon:
- You will learn discipline. Triathlons are multi-events requiring a high level of discipline. If you’re not disciplined in your approach to the training as well as the events itself, it could lead to injury or even accidents.
- You will become more patient. There are no shortcuts. For the ones who have had a sedentary lifestyle (like me), it will take a long time before your body can get used to the punishment of competing. Weeks can go by before you begin to notice improvements in any of the events.
- You will become more focused. You have to focus on one particular triathlon discipline when you train (unless you’re doing back to back workouts). Most people I’ve spoken to agree that there will be one discipline which will have a lion’s share of challenges. You can’t allow the challenges of 1 discipline to effect the others. Mine was swimming. As bad as my swimming was, I had to learn to put it aside when I cycle or run. It’s the same during the triathlon itself. It doesn’t matter how bad the swim was, when it’s time to cycle, cycle. When it’s time to run, run.
- You will understand the true meaning of commitment. I went through many doubts and hesitations when I trained for the triathlon. The desire to give up became stronger during the difficult training periods when my body was in pain. I went through a period of having to ice both ankles every night for 3 months. Each night I wanted to give up.
- You will understand how to become technically excellent. Injuries abound if you don’t respect the technical excellence that each discipline requires. You have to spend hours and hours on drills and workouts to become technically proficient (not even excellent yet). Not only that you will have to be aware of your technical deficiencies so that you can improve on them. It’s a very good way to learn how to learn.
- You will be able to handle failures better. There are good days and bad days. I always have some sort of targets (or mini targets) during each training session. When I don’t meet the targets my doubts would come back. The challenge is to make each failure something to learn from.
- You will feel great. I mentioned in the previous point about handling failures better. Well, let’s talk about success. When you meet your targets in training that you’ve never done before or being able to master that particular technique you’ve practiced for what seemed like years, the accompanying feeling is unbelievable. I remember the first time I ran for 5km non-stop. It took me about 50 minutes (which I find very slow now). Considering a few months before I couldn’t last even a minute of running, that day was a big milestone and that feeling was indescribable.
- You will become fit. Fitness is a relative term. I consider myself fit now because I can run for an hour without stopping. This is a lot different to a year ago when I couldn’t even run for a minute without gasping for air. I’m working toward running for longer distances and for that I have to become not only fitter but also have more endurance.
- You will inspire others. I keep another blog detailing my triathlon experience and I found out that people were actually reading and getting inspired by my journey and I often get embarrassed when people recognize me at running events and telling me how I inspired them. It’s great to have a positive impact on others.
- There’s no feeling that can compare to the feeling of crossing the finishing line. I saved this one for last. After 7 months of training, I finally made it to the finishing line. There’s only one word to describe it. JOY. The pain was worth it. The stress was worth it. The whole journey was worth it.
I am now preparing to enter longer distances and I hope to one day compete in an Ironman distance. If you are interested, visit www.triathlonmalaysia.com to find out about the next triathlon in Malaysia.
How about you? What benefits did you get from competing in triathlons?